Film Review: The Last Five Years


Based on the musical, Richard LaGravense’s The Last Five Years is an experiment that pays off for the most part. The film is well executed.

Cathy, a struggling actress, looks back at her five year relationship with writer Jamie. Meanwhile, Jamie’s perspective sees the relationship from the beginning to the end…

Richard LaGravenese’s cinematic adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years offers something different in its format. LaGravenese employs an undercutting device to tell the story. Rather than a traditional film musical where songs mingle with spoken dialogue, the story of The Last Five Years is told exclusively in song.

As a cinematic experiment, The Last Five Years is broadly successful. Songs in the film are decent for the most part, although they are not particularly memorable. The film mixes upbeat numbers with more reflective ballads. Pacing also works well; the film manages to tell its story in detail without dragging. Performances from the two protagonists are strong. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan exhibit good chemistry as well as decent voices.

LaGravenese’s direction is good throughout the film. The cinematography also works well, although the reliance on movement is dizzying at times. The Last Five Years does however have a fluidity that works to its advantage.

Storytelling in the film is interesting. The narrative jumps from Anna’s to Jamie’s perspective frequently. Whilst Cathy begins her telling of the story from the present working back in time, Jamie commences at the beginning. This provides an interesting frisson. Not only is the story told from both perspective, but the jumping around in the time frame allows viewers to really see the changes in the characters and their relationship.

The depth of feeling between the two protagonists is effectively conveyed in The Last Five Years. Emotion increases as the film continues. Some viewers will find the film identifiable, although it is not quite the tearjerker some audiences would expect. Humour in the film is slight, but effective where it is employed.

With its reliance on singing over dialogue, The Last Five Years is a bit of an acquired taste. Nevertheless, musical fans are likely to be pleased by Richard LaGravense’s offering.

The Last Five Years will be screened at Empire Leicester Square in London from Friday 17th April 2015. It will be released on VOD on 1st May 2015, and on DVD on 4th May 2015.

Film Review: Joyful Noise

With Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton heading up the cast of a film which revolves around a choir competition, viewers should have a good idea of what to expect. Joyful Noise offers entertainment one would anticipate, although there is some unevenness.

Wealthy G.G. Sparrow is surprised with the appointment of Vi Rose Hill as the new choir director. Hoping to win a national competition, the two women clash over the direction the choir is taking. Things get more complicated with the arrival of G.G’s grandson Randy…

Joyful Noise primarily concerns itself with a church choir hoping to win a competition as the underdogs. However there are numerous strands that feature in addition to this overarching narrative. While the plot would have been rather weak without embellishment, there is a lot going on in the film. As well as the strained relationship between G.G. and Vi Rose, there is the blooming romance between Randy and Olivia. In addition to this, there are strands occupied by the recession, the impact of a disability, marriage and relationship problems, bereavement and a tumultuous mother-daughter relationship. All in all, therefore, there are a lot of different dynamics at play.

Due to the sheer amount of strands at play, some never feel fully developed or satisfactorily resolved. In spite of this, Joyful Noise is still an enjoyable film to watch. The dialogue is priceless at times, feeling quite authentically of its Georgia setting. The songs featured in the film are also good, although some more gospel would have been welcome given that it is a church choir competition.

Dolly Parton brings her regular charm as G.G. Sparrow. It is welcome that the film makes light of Parton’s cosmetic surgery. Queen Latifah delivers a powerful performance as Vi Rose. Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan are suitably cast as Olivia and Randy.

The narrative of Todd Graff’s film could have been a lot tighter. Nevertheless, Joyful Noise should leave viewers with a smile on their face. The film will not appeal to everyone, but should entertain those who give it a go.

Trailer Round-Up

New trailers for The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus were released earlier this week. With the latest trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man being released last night, this has been a bumper week for blockbuster trailers. All we need now is something from new James Bond movie Skyfall

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is the eagerly anticipated new film from Wes Anderson. The film boasts a stellar cast that includes Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Bruce Willis and Tilda Swinton. Moonrise Kingdom is about two children who fall in love during the summer of 1965. The film is released on 25th May 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man

The third trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man was released last night. The trailer reveals more of an emphasis on Peter Parker’s parents than the previous run of Spiderman films. Although the trailer looks good, The Amazing Spider-Man has been sandwiched between two superhero behemoths; Avengers Assemble has already done record-breaking business while The Dark Knight Rises is due for release two weeks after Spider-Man. Notwithstanding, given the popularity of this character, The Amazing Spider-Man is sure to bring in the crowds when it opens on 4th July 2012.

Magic Mike

I am not sure what Magic Mike is supposed to be, other than based on Channing Tatum’s former career as a stripper. Steven Soderbergh’s film could have been a male version of Showgirls, but instead seems to have a strong romantic string to the story. Channing Tatum showed off his comedy chops in 21 Jump Street, so hopefully these will shine through in Magic Mike. Also starring Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConughey, Magic Mike is out in cinemas on 13th July 2012.

Joyful Noise

The only thing you need to know about this film is that Dolly Parton in it. But if you want to know more, the film is about church choir group who enter a competition with new director Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) at the helm. The arrival of Randy (Jeremy Jordan), the grandson of G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) shakes things up. Joyful Noise is released on 29th June 2012.